The latest instalment of 'Educating stuff,' news and views from Wimbledon's Education Department, greets the advent of spring with happy abandon...
As I walked around the grounds of the All England Club this morning I sensed a palpable energy about the place: it seems that spring has finally sprung! The school and university groups who have visited the Education Department over the past few weeks have had to endure heavy grey skies, bitingly cold winds, hail stones, driving rain and even the odd snow storm (especially odd as the snow fell after the official start of spring and the leap forward of the clocks into British Summer Time!) As most of our tours take place outside, students have had to use a great deal of imagination to picture the grounds as the scene of a tennis tournament held in an English summer garden party atmosphere.
More than a few have seen their hands turn red raw by the time we have reached Centre Court, and girls from one school nearly cried as they tried to complete a field sketch in blizzard-like conditions at the top of Henman Hill! Over these weeks I have also learned from our teenage visitors that even while they are exploring the magic of Wimbledon in the coldest temperatures Britain has seen since 1962, it is distinctly ‘not cool’ to consider wrapping up in warm, winter-appropriate clothing!
But today, at last, things were different. The sun has once again appeared over SW19 and according to Mark Sheather, who has been a Wimbledon groundsman since 1971, just one day of sunshine, even after all the recent appalling weather, will prompt the grass to start growing again. And I have to say he is absolutely right; the courts appear a healthier shade of green than of late and so much perkier that I am sure I could even hear it growing!
So Mark and the other groundsmen were responding to this new vitality by readying their lawn mowers to cut the courts and create those iconic Wimbledon stripes; incidentally did you know that the grass must be precisely 8 millimetres high by the time of The Championships? Or that the courts must pass a ball-bouncing test to ensure that they are of the correct firmness for the game of lawn tennis!
For all the pampering of the courts that continues here, I’m sure that the grass court season is not yet even in the minds of the players. This week the men find themselves on the gritty red stuff at the first big tournament of the European clay season. Rafael Nadal is attempting to win his ninth Monte Carlo title in a row and looks to be back to his best after achieving a 42 match winning streak since his return from injury, and now that Andy Murray has moved up to No.2 in the world rankings he and Rafa find themselves in the same half of the draw, questions remain over Djokovic’s dodgy ankle, and with Del Potro and Gael Monfils hitting good form, the stage is set for a truly great season of tennis; I can’t wait!
If you would like to book one of our Geography-themed tours- I promise they are not always in blizzard conditions – or to discover more amazing grass-related facts then take a look at our Education Programme for more details.